nb-ron-powers

Ron Powers says his case proves citizens can fight big government. (CBC)

A Minto man who has been fighting the provincial government's attempt to claw back a $264 social assistance overpayment dating back to 1997 says he has won.

Ron Powers says he received a letter from the Department of Social Development on Monday, saying the 16-year-old case was being dropped because of the statute of limitations.

"It explained everything in front about the whole business and then at the end, the final paragraph, two lines — 'We won't be coming after you.' And on the next page, they apologized," he said.

In December, Powers told CBC News he had received a letter from the department after the recovery unit discovered an accounting error that suggested he got an extra $264 in 1997 and the department wanted the money back.

He said he hadn't previously been told about the overpayment, but was warned the money would be taken out of his income tax rebate.

Powers says he was just one of several thousand people who were told they had to pay back overpayments, but as far as he knows, he's the only one who fought the matter.

He says his case proves citizens can fight big government.

People who work with the poor, some politicians and many citizens had expressed outrage over the government's handling of the file.

Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé had argued any overpayment is never too small or too far back to pursue.

But the department's website states the policy on overpayments is: "Clients will only be required to make restitution for the overpayment incurred in the 12 months prior to the date of detection."

Government officials have said $14.5 million in overpayments is outstanding. The recovery unit, which was formed in 2011, had recovered more than $500,000 as of late last year, officials had said.